Blockchain/DLT for Coops

Does anyone know of anything currently being investigated within the Blockchain/Distributed Ledger Tech space for how better to manage things such as governance, member capital allocations etc. for worker cooperatives?

I think there is a lot of potential here in the coming years, would be interesting to hear any thoughts anyone has.

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Check out Mutual Credit and Murmurations, they are the first two things that come to mind as possible use cases for distributed ledger style projects.

https://murmurations.network/

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It’s not a specific answer to your question - but I’ve been intrigued by the socialist block chain site for a while and it may have some ideas.

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From what I gather, leftist programmers are quite sceptical when it comes to Blockchain. Specifically the The Blockchain Socialist often writes on the Socialist Programmers Reddit and always faces a lot of critique from people there. Some of the themes of the criticism are about: attempting to solve political problems with technological solutions instead of political ones, dubious or disputed role in strengthening democracy, individualising ownership etc… What doesn’t help is that user supports Bitcoin and moving towards cryptocurrencies, something that receives a huge pushback from the left.

As a programmer I have been interested in the technology itself, and I’m a huge fan of decentralised technology, but personally I don’t feel like blockchain itself has any use here.

However, if you’re still interested, there is the Trustlines project which paints itself as a mutual credit network based on blockchain technology.

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Interesting response from @Maciek - I’d largely concur: lots of initial interest and excitement around the decentralised potential of blockchain tech, and for me I could see lots of potential in the context of large scale global cooperative organisations that could be envisaged through a platform co-operative perspective. In practice it feels like little of this early excitement translated into practice, but maybe it’s still being developed - a bit like Holochain - and will emerge like a butterfly in due course.

The whole smart contract/automated governance things actually feels quite weak when you start to poke at it, although I remain open to be convinced of the value. What we’re looking to build is trustful networks rather than trustless ones. And my own thinking on ideas of building large scale cooperative organisations is that it’s a very high risk approach that leaves itself open to management capture and demutualisation. The more resilient and human scale approach being to develop and operate small scale local cooperatives and use a replicate/federate approach to deliver resilience, anti-fragility, complexity and economy of scale with none of the cost of scale. So there might be some value in decentralised tech applications there.

I read the other day that Trustlines was a vanity project with no real traction, but that’s just hearsay, albeit form someone who knows what he’s talking about. I’m involved in a mutual credit project and the group there see no perceivable need or benefit for blockchain tech.

For my own part I got involved in the Faircoin crypto project a few years back, coordinated by Enric Duran and co, and am currently looking after a Cooperatively Validated Node (CVN) on the Faircoin blockchain network, which runs on ‘proof of cooperation’.

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Thanks @Graham, I’ll make sure to have a look Faircoin and CVNs.

My interest lies largely with the potential of the technology rather than existing cryptocurrencies themselves. I’ve been doing a deep dive into how blockchain can interact with society for a while now and my conclusion thus far is that it simply cannot, and probably will not, be adopted for new mainstream currencies while we are still subjected to capitalism. There is nothing to indicate to me so far that crypto can solve any problems with market fluctuations, especially high impact recessions that we see more frequently. If anything I think the problems will be made worse.

Where I am interested in the technology is the potential to build trusted networks for cooperative organisations, whereby the governance of the networks is beholden to the members of that cooperative. As an example, imagine the Mondragon cooperative with their wage policy structures, member capital allocations of profits, member voting systems. Many of these features could be implemented in smart contracts using DLT, with issuing, changes etc. to be carried out and approved democratically by members. With this implemented say at a group level, the model could be easily adopted by other coops wanting to join the group with very little friction.

Maybe there are more important problems to solve first, but it’s something I think will be interesting to investigate.

This is a great read, thanks @jenkatan29

I’m interested in this. Also P2P software for the same.
I’m really not sure what the state of the art is, but you should probably know about Aragon and Colony.io

Liam

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Ledgerback is a research cooperative that is currently exploring the uses of DTL in cooperative governance through collaborative research. (I advise them) https://www.ledgerback.coop/

I understand that Guerrilla Media Collective uses blockchain for governance: DisCO Project - Guerrilla Media Collective Wiki

Other projects that I can recall:

Fairshares http://www.fairshares.coop/ (financing and governance)
EvaCoop Eva (Ridesharing)
CryptoCommons https://cryptocommons.cc/

In the Internet of Ownership repository, you might find more examples: Internet of Ownership - Google Sheets

Here and article on the intersection of Holochain and Cooperativism: https://open.coop/2018/06/14/holochain-perfect-framework-decentralised-cooperation-scale/

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As a developer I got quite familiar with assessing technology choices. It’s a core part of the work. And also very familiar with the desire for exciting shiny technologies too. Which is also important, to be delightful to work with, and to be an avenue for creative exploration. I don’t think we should just limit ourselves to only implementing exactly what is needed to solve the (externally defined) problem. Play is part of it too.

but … I think hype is a whole other phenomenon. Hyped up technologies don’t just promise new technological solutions but whole new paradigms. They challenge us to change our thinking. To invalidate our old questions and boundaries. They can get us to leapfrog into the next era. A step change, not just incremental. It’s no longer just a technology to solve a problem we know about, but a whole new way of seeing those problems.

It plays on our emotions, as an escape from this boring linear reality, into a new world of endless possibilities. Technology as emancipation. A gateway to our new algorithm-based decentralized blockchain powered lives.

But when we come back down to earth again and try to use this new tool, it seems it’s not actually that useful after all. We already have databases. And who cares what is on a blockchain given it needs to interface with the existing world at some point, using good ol’ fashioned human trust (a recent discussion I read pointing out you can have blockchains for global logistics that can tell you very accurately what should be in a given container, but it will never be able to know if somebody opened it up and put something else inside).

If we start with a good analysis of The Problem we are trying to solve and a holistic strategy to address it, I doubt blockchain has much to offer in almost all cases.

But techno-utopian dreamers are gunna dream, and devs wanting to play with some cool new tech are gunna play, and everyone else can but let’s not forget we all need to keep shovelling the shit.

How many waves of failed promises of techno-salvation do we need to endure before we become wise and reconnect with ourselves, with others, and with our natural ecosystems?

(phew, normally I just think/write some dismissive sarcastic shit when the word bl*ckchain comes up)

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I’m generally sceptical of exceptionally slow databases with advanced audit capability (AKA blockchain)

There are a few in this kind of space I’ve has a look at

How it works – CoBox is DAT with a frontend for distributed backups

https://www.joinseeds.com/ is a hippy cryptocurrency based on Telos

https://safenetwork.org/ is not blockchain but is a distributed filesystem with potentially interesting properties (If it ever works, they’ve been at it 10yrs+)

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Holochain is a technology that seems well-aligned with cooperation. It further decentralizes the concept of a blockchain network, making it agent-centric and giving it lots of very interesting advantages. At the network-layer, every application running on Holochain is inherently collaborative in how the network and peer-data is managed. It’s a very compelling project.

Speaking of The Blockchain Socialist, there is the BreadChain, which is meant to be “A community of decentralized, cooperatives projects – A place to forge solidarity through tech projects that help us build a truly cooperative, democratic economy.”
https://breadchain.vercel.app/

It’s relatively new. Currently, the only project that is a part of BreadChain is a community-driven Basis Project, which the main contributor described as follows:

As it stands now, Basis describes an economy where production is distributed (not centrally planned) and works without money exchange (or exchange value) between productive entities. Effectively, it takes a market and removes profit and private ownership. Planning can be used on top of Basis, but is not required.

On top of this, Basis defines a currency which workers earn through their labor. This currency is destroyed when spent so it does not circulate the primary economy. This also allows for an interesting hack: being able to print and distribute a living-wage UBI without having to resort to taxation.

The high-level goals of Basis are to put economic control into the hands of the people, to increase people’s awareness of the ecological impact of their productive system, and to meet the basic needs of people regardless of their productivity or market value.
Basis project · GitHub

If you’d like to chat with people exploring this and similar questions, you should check out the CryptoLeftists Discord server. It’s quite active.

I also want to second @KingMob regarding the application of distributed technology to mutual credit systems. To me it seems like a perfect pairing. I recall some discussion of implementing a mutual credit system on Holochain, but I forget where.